Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown and vice president Troy Blackburn spoke with the media at the conclusion of the NFL owners meetings on Wednesday. Brown addressed the new coaching staff, free agency moves and potential extensions for some of his players. Brown also addressed his lone "no" vote against expanded instant replay:
Here's what they said:
Why did the Bengals re-sign RT Bobby Hart?
Troy Blackburn: "For those who say you shouldn’t have signed Bobby Hart, who is going to play right tackle? Who? Oh, maybe you’ll draft one in the third round and he’ll come on. Really? You’re going to bet your season on that? We may still draft somebody. We haven’t had the draft yet. But you just can’t criticize. In our business you have to solve the problem. If you’re not going to play him, tell me who? Trent Brown at $17 million? Really? A seventh-round draft pick? ... We can’t go to WalMart and buy off the shelf. A high quality starting right tackle? That doesn’t exist (in free agency). You have to deal in the universe of options you have. We ended up signing eight guys. That’s probably above average. Were they perfect? You’re not going to get perfect ...
"The players we have coming back are the most impactful players we have. You get two 1,000- yard receivers coming back. You’re getting a former Pro Bowl quarterback coming back. Those are the areas where we’re strong.
"There aren’t perfect options out there. We asked (former Bengals tackle) Willie Anderson if he could go to a time machine and come back at age 25. We’d love to sign him, but you have to deal in your universe of options. I think the data would say we signed more guys than most in line with the cap that we talked about. If there are surprises out there we’ll try to be flexible and aggressive, but normally there are no surprises out there."
Could Andy Dalton be extended with two years left on his deal?
Mike Brown: "I think it's a good year for him to show like he can, like we think he will. After he re-establishes himself we would want to get together with him and see if we can extend it. ...
"I think Andy is a good player and that he will rebound off last year. He was hurt. We lost so many other pieces. It fell apart, but if he's healthy and we stay healthy enough, I have confidence in him.
"One of the good things is (tight end C.J. Uzomah) came on and he wouldn't have had a chance if we had stayed healthy. It's odd how it works. You can go through a tough moment and be benefited by it later."
Is a third contract in line for A.J. Green?
Brown: "Oh, I think he's a proven commodity, isn't he? The price range for him will be something we can figure out, will come together. ... It's true with anyone, if they suddenly get an injury that it reduces them. Well that changes the equation, but I never plan on that happening. I like to think that won't happen. If A.J. is healthy, he's as good a receiver as anybody in the league."
Was it difficult to move on from Vontaze Burfict?
Brown: "It was for me. Burfict, when he was healthy and playing at the level he could play, was exceptional. All this stuff that came on detracted from his ability to play effectively and we suffered from it. It gives us a little clearer path forward. I don’t expect we’re going to have to defend whoever is out there this year the way we’ve had to defend Burfict. And some of the stuff he was accused of in my mind was overdrawn. But it was the fact he was accused and we had all the repercussions with it."
Why did they wait to cut Burfict until free agency started?
Blackburn: "There may have been other factors that played into it in terms of trying to explore whether you could get some (value) for him… We tried to be thorough and thoughtful with it and that’s what dictated the timing as much as anything."
How have things changed with a new coaching staff?
Brown: "I try to meet with him and others on our staff every day. That’s changed. It used to be just me and Marvin (Lewis). Now we have Katie (Blackburn) and Troy and Paul (Brown) and Duke (Tobin) and Zac, so there’s a bigger group and more voices."
"It’s new, it’s different and we’re going to find out. We’ll get a feel for them as they go about it. They all have good certification and backgrounds and I’m as interested as anybody to see how it fits together on the field. How it all works. It’s going to be quite different for us. I think that’s what our fans wanted. They thought we needed that. And I think maybe they’re right in how they feel."
Did the Bengals accomplish their goals in free agency?
Brown: "I think with all the restrictions I think we did well. We have a starting guard. He should step in right away and help. We have a number of others that will step in and play a role. There’s another thing that deserves comment. We’re going to get a bunch of guys back that were hurt and not playing last year. That’s going to do a lot to get us going. I think that will be the major thing."
What's the current state of the linebacker unit?
Brown: "You look at different teams. The Chargers don’t even play them. They played safeties. It’s changing. The old days when you had four down linemen and three linebackers, it’s not that anymore. You get nickel 80 percent of the plays, so now you’re talking about two linebackers. We want to get better there. We want to get better everywhere. We brought back Preston Brown and he’ll be healthy and that will give us some solidity. We moved on from Burfict, which is an interesting story. He was in some ways, maybe, unfairly criticized, but he was criticized heavily and that took a toll on us. We’re not going to go there anymore. We have young guys that are about to come on. Vigil is at a stage he’s experienced and he’s young and he can run and I think he’ll do very well. We have people. We’re looking to get some help there. But there are other areas we’re looking to get help, too."